It was a scooter really and not a motorbike. But it still ran on two wheels and we were in Vietnam, not exactly the best place to start conquering your fear of riding a motorbike, okay, at least, a scooter. But I guess, even dangerous things start having a life of their own once you start seeing more and more of it. And in Vietnam, riding a bike seems de rigeur, especially for tourists.
I was ALMOST tempted to try one at Hoi An, touted to be one of the safest places (read: slow drivers) for bikes. On the highway from Danang I did notice that everyone seemed to be going at a slower pace. Well, after the craziness of all those maniacal motos at HCMC, everything just has to look slower. But if even the moto drivers in Hoi An are less pushy, then there must be really something.
I literally threw all caution to the chilly wind as a climbed behind Quan when he picked me up along Ly Quan. He promised me a good dinner of all those bahn specialties of Hue I have read all about. I also made him promise me to drive slowly and to keep looking at the road as he had the tendency to look at me whenever he said something. Thankfully, it was past 7 in the evening and the traffic was very light. As we rode along the streets, my nervousness slowly dissipated. There was nothing to be afraid of after all or maybe it was because he was only going on a speed of about 30.
From the main road, we turned right to a small lane and stopped in front of a tiny house-eatery that was just about to close its doors. The only indication that it served food were the words bahn painted red on the glass. Quan said something in Vietnamese and the lady let us in. They were closed already but he knew her and he asked her to open up as I was a foreigner, Quan explained. I was a little embarrassed though quite surprised as it as only seven in the evening. What would normally be the living room was the dining area. We sat at the only wooden table. Small tables were folded and stools stacked against the wall.
Who would have thought that such delicious morsels of food would come from the simple place. We were first served small parcels of a pinkish chewy paste called nem . It has a strange sour taste that grew on you. Next came a large round tray that held small saucers of ban bo topped with shrimp and pork cracklings and served with a sllightly sweet nuoc mam with chili. It was absolutely delicious! But the best was yet to come. Steamed leaves held a pasty rice flour topped with what seemed and tasted like chopped fish and shrimp while another was an entire shrimp encased in a thick sweetih paste. It was Vietnamese cuisine like no other! Very tasty! The entire meal plus a small bottle of water cost VD 100,000! It was worth every risk and fear I had to swallow with the bike ride.
Stomach full and taste buds happy, I wasn’t as nervous anymore. We rode around the outside of the Citadel and on the side streets in the center of town. Even in the travellers area, there weren’t much people. I enjoyed the ride very much as I got to see parts of the city outside the tourist map. It was very cold though as it had been raining the entire day since I arrived from Hoi An around noon time.